Ross Hemera Kaiwhakaahua & Patrick Laviolette, School of Visual & Material Culture, Massey University
In carrying on with this blog’s recent theme of indigenous art, objects and display, we take you to Aotearoa. The end of April has just seen an exhibition of world class contemporary jade and wood carvings, jewellery, paintings, sculpture, silver and weaving by Maori artists. This was part of a Maori arts and cultural festival launched in the capital by the Minister of Māori Affairs whose inaugural speech is attached below.
Korotangi Series 5 by James F Ornsby
It has been some time, now, since such a significant event on the New Zealand art calendar last occurred. This exhibition of Maori art was especially successful in two aspects. First, as a showcase of, up to the minute work of, Maori artists the exhibition included a comprehensive ranch of the very highest quality – from tertiary students to emerging and mid career artists to our original trailblazers including Fred Graham and Para Matchitt. Secondly, for Maori an event such as this brings an extra special dimension – whanaungatanga. Artist, family and friends from all over the motu, arrived in support to provide the necessary human presence for the works in this exhibition. The occasion also being a time for reminiscing with old friends, networking and meeting new artists.
Māori MARKet Gala, Evening Launch at TSB Arena, Wellington, New Zealand, Thursday 26 April 2007
Speech on behalf of the New Zealand Government delivered by the Honourable Parekura Horomia, Minister of Māori Affairs. (Source of speech courtesy www.scoop.co.nz)
It is great to be here in amongst all of this Māori creativity and artistry and I want to thank the organisers for the opportunity to speak tonight.
Like me, you all must enjoy celebrating Māori achievement otherwise you wouldn’t be here to support this! This Māori MARKet builds on the highly successful 2005 Māori Art Meets America event in San Francisco. A stunning image from that event which stands out in my mind is that of the waka “Te Ika a Maui” and its paddlers gliding beneath the Golden Gate Bridge. That image evoked a very strong sense of pride and passion in me because it captured a moment when Māori proudly took centre-stage internationally. And the vehicle for that opportunity was our art.
From a full-day workshop on the making and playing of taonga puoro instruments, 2003
Māori make New Zealand unique in the world. Whenever we talk about our national identity, we cannot bypass this fact. Of course, all New Zealanders contribute to our national identity and I believe few New Zealanders would refute the statement that Māori provide the “X”-factor that makes our national identity unique in the world.
Tonight’s launch of the Māori MARKet is another step in a journey begun when Māori art met America two years ago. Māori Art Meets America was a distinctive and original promotion and celebration of New Zealand but especially of Māori art. More than fifty Māori artists and dignitaries travelled together to San Francisco to participate in the opening ceremonies and dynamic, interactive exhibition. From the time it was launched and available in San Francisco, Māori Art Meets America transformed the city of San Francisco. Americans were captivated by all that they experienced during the 10 day event including the magnificent performances by Te Puia.
Tonight I am delighted to see the Māori MARKet initiative building on that success and lifting the profile of Māori contemporary art even higher. The Māori MARKet represents another stage in our journey towards the realisation of Māori potential – an approach to Māori policy that this government champions because it has a simple but profound goal of raising the life quality of all Māori.
This event is exactly the kind of initiative that my ministry Te Puni Kōkiri supports as part of its Māori Potential Approach and I am pleased it was able to provide financial support to help ensure this event got off the ground. The world of art – whether it be performing and/or visual – gives us a clear focus because it is tangible. Contemporary art should challenge and stimulate us and those Māori artists featured during the Māori MARKet – do just that.
Māori art, like all things Māori, is unique to this country and deserves our full attention and support. Top New Zealand galleries will be exhibiting Māori art at the MARKet, several Māori art schools will have a presence and work by contemporary art graduates will be at the MARKet. So it will be a feast for the senses that you should support and encourage all your whānau and friends to support too.
But the MARKet is not just about the display and sale of art. It also offers a programme of artists at work, seminars, guest speakers; performances by musicians and storytellers; and clay, tā moko, carving, weaving and fashion displays. Some unique exhibits have been assembled for the Māori MARKet such as; Hinemoana, the contemporary ceremonial waka, built and launched for Waitangi Day this year. Hinemoa was built to a design by Hekenukumai Busby, and carved from a single kauri tree with components in tōtara and synthetic materials. Hinemoana was worked on by six master carvers and contemporary Maori artists from different tribes. Hinemoana carries a carved and painted eagle that was a gift from North American Native Indian artist Dempsey Bob.
The dolphin on the prow keeps an eye on the water ahead, the eagle watches overhead and the whale rider on the bow watches over the crew. The Māori MARKet is also about making international connections. There will be leading North American Indigenous artists, including a showcase of the styles of Canadian fashion designer Dorothy Grant (Haida) in association with Māori weavers.
Also featured are renowned artists Dempsey Bob (Tahltan/Tlingit sculptor), Lillian Pitt (Warm Springs mask maker/jeweller), Chuck Striplen (Ohlone weaver) and Denise Wallace (Aleut jeweller). We can all celebrate and enjoy Māori creativity and achievement that will be showcased over the next three days.
One aspect of the Māori MARKet initiative that I find very exciting is that it is an example of how more New Zealanders are realising that Māori potential deserves their support because Māori success is New Zealand’s success. Contemporary art should challenge and stimulate us but also move us at a deeper level. Those Māori artists featured during the Māori MARKet – achieve all these things. Māori art, like all things Māori, is unique to this country and deserves our full attention and support so don’t forget to tell your whānau and friends to come and visit the Māori MARKet!